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Evergreen Review

Lifespan: 1922 -

Related: Barney Rossett - Publishing - American literature - Grove Press

Evergreen Review, Vol. 1 No. 1, 1957

titles: The Adventures of Phoebe Zeitgeist


From its first issue to its last, Evergreen Review was hailed as one of the most provocative magazines ever. Now, for the first time, the magazine's final years will be anthologized.

Evergreen Review was the bible for a generation of radicals and free thinkers. It championed Beckett and Brautigan, erotica and activism with an in-your-face attitude that confronted and challenged the conventions of the day.

Barney Rosset, the founder, publisher, and editor of Evergreen Review, catapulted Evergreen to the forefront. He brought together within its pages some of the most adventurous writers, illustrators, and photographers of the time.

Included are an Ezra Pound interview by Allen Ginsberg on anti-Semitism; Che Guevara's Bolivian campaign diary; short fiction by William Burroughs, Samuel Beckett, and Kenzaburo Oë; as well as essays and criticism by Evergreen's cadre of regulars: Jack Newfield, Dotson Rader, John Lahr, Susan Sontag, and many more.

Barney Rosset served as editor and publisher during the entire history of Evergreen Review. Rosset was also the publisher of Grove Press for more than thirty years. --http://www.4w8w.com/bookrosset1.html [Sept 2004]


Evergreen Review
Evergreen Review was a literary magazine published by Grove Press in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Its eclecticism can be seen in the issue from March-April 1960, which included work by Albert Camus, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bertolt Brecht, and LeRoi Jones, as well as Edward Albee's first play, The Zoo Story. The Camus piece was a reprint of "Reflections on the Guillotine" twice, first published in English in the Review in 1957, and reprinted on this occasion as their "contribution to the world-wide debate on the problem of capital punishment and, more specifically, the case of Caryl Whittier Chessman".

Although primary a literary magazine, Evergreen Review always contained numerous illustrations. In its early years, these were generally artistic; they also included a small number of cartoons. By the mid-1960s, a lot of the illustrations were photographs or an erotic—arguably of a pornographic— nature. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evergreen_Review [Aug 2005]


One of Rosset’s salient management skills was his ability to recognize editorial talent, to find key personnel at just the right time. Shortly after acquiring the press, for instance, Rosset enrolled in a night class on publishing at Columbia University offered by Saxe Commins of Random House. There he met Don Allen, who became Grove’s first employee, though he stayed on only briefly at first. When Allen returned, he had worked freelance with Arabel J. Porter on New World Writing for New American Library and on Modern Writing, published by Partisan Review, and he wanted Rosset to develop something similar at Grove, that is, to produce a high-quality journal of new writing to appear periodically, but in the form of a paperback. The result was Evergreen Review No. 1, which appeared in 1957. Named after Grove’s growing line of trade paperbacks, the first Evergreen Review carried its own Evergreen number, E-59, and represented a synthesis of the interests of its editors. Allen had been reading Henri Michaux’s Miserable Miracle, an account of the author’s experiments with mescaline, and he followed the poets of the “Berkeley Renaissance” of 1947–49, and then of the San Francisco Beat writers who succeeded them. Rosset steered the magazine toward more topical and political issues than those found in either New World Writing or Modern Writing, and his own interest in photography and film was reflected throughout Evergreen’s history. Rosset had been publishing postwar, avant-garde writers since 1953, and Evergreen Review No. 1 contained a short story by one of Grove’s major discoveries, Samuel Beckett, titled “Dante and the Lobster,” which revived interest in his collection of stories, banned in Ireland in 1934, More Pricks Than Kicks.

Evergreen Review No. 2 was even more stunning, a special issue on the “San Francisco Scene.” Rosset and Allen relied heavily on Kenneth Rexroth for its selections, and Rexroth turned for advice to Allen Ginsberg. Devoted to West Coast Beat writers, it focused on emerging voices, including Ginsberg’s own “Howl,” reprinted from Ferlinghetti’s Pocket Poet’s Series, No. 4 (but excluding the fourth and most offensive section), and an excerpt from Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Good Life, which Rosset was even then using to prepare for Grove’s most audacious publication, Tropic of Cancer. Evergreen ­Review quickly became the vanguard of Grove’s anticensorship crusade, concluding its first year by publishing “Horn on Howl” in No. 4, in which Ferlinghetti reported on Judge Clayton Horn’s ruling that Ginsberg’s Howl was not obscene. The seizure, trial, and subsequent publicity turned Howl into a best-seller for the fledgling City Lights Books. The lesson was not lost on Rosset.

By the spring of 1959 Don Allen had established himself on the West Coast and was losing interest in actively co-editing Evergreen Review. Soon after Rosset hired Richard Seaver, who would become managing editor of Evergreen with No. 9 (summer 1959) and one of Grove’s most distinctive editors. Seaver had gone to Paris in 1951 to study at Sorbonne. There he became associated with a group of expatriates, including Christopher Logue, Alexander Trocchi, Baird Bryant, Patrick Bowles, Austryn Wainhouse, and Wainhouse’s wife Muffie, who had published one volume of a literary journal called Merlin.5 Seaver had recently discovered two postwar French novels by Samuel Beckett, Molloy and Malone meurt, in the window of the French publisher Les Editions de Minuit as he passed to and from his makeshift residence on the rue de Sabot. Seaver found the novels so exhilarating he quickly wrote an essay, “Samuel Beckett: An Introduction,” for the second number of Merlin (summer 1952). That began a close association between Beckett and Seaver. The group that Beckett called the “Merlin juveniles” soon formed an association with Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press to finance the magazine and a series of Merlin books, beginning with Samuel Beckett’s then unpublished Watt. By 1956 the association of Collection Merlin, Olympia Press, and Grove Press jointly brought out the English edition of Molloy, which had been translated by Patrick Bowles in collaboration with Beckett. Seaver had also done some major translations for Girodias, including (with Austryn Wainhouse) two collections of work by the Marquis de Sade, Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and other Writings and The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings, and most notably perhaps (in collaboration with the author) two of Beckett’s early stories, “The Expelled” and “The End.” Seaver thus became the ideal choice to succeed Don Allen at the Evergreen Review, and went on to become one of Grove’s most influential editors by solidifying Grove’s French connection.

Seaver’s first issue as managing editor opened with Henry Miller’s eloquent “Defense of the Freedom to Read,” an essay in the form of a letter to his Norwegian attorney, Trygve Hirsch, to assist in defense of his novel Sexus against charges in Oslo that it was obscene writing. “Statement in Support of the Freedom to Read” then became a Grove-led petition that was published as the cover to Evergreen Review No. 25 (July–August 1962), in the midst of the Tropic of Cancer litigation. The last of the quarto-formatted issues, No. 31, included excerpts from works that would become emblems of the age, Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America and Pauline Réage’s Story of O, for example, but it carried another letter on censorship, “Written Address to the Italian Judge” (May 1963), in which Jack Kerouac defended his novel The Subterraneans—published in the United States by Grove and in Italy by Feltrinelli Editore—against charges of obscenity.

With No. 32 (April–May 1964) Evergreen became a glossy, visually oriented commercial magazine. Advertising increased but much of it was politically driven—advertising as editorial commentary—a form of capitalism in the service of the revolution that Rosset seems to have devised. Evergreen continued its commitment to experimental writing with William Burroughs’s neo-Dadaist “Cut-Ups Self-Explained,” but the issue paved the way for Grove’s move into film by testing the censorship standard for visual art with a portfolio of double-exposed nudes by American photographer Emil J. Cadoo. The photos exposed Evergreen to criminal prosecution as well. On June 12, 1964, detectives from the Nassau County Vice Squad raided the printing plant on Long Island and carried off 21,000 unbound copies of Evergreen No. 32. Rosset retaliated, published another Cadoo nude in No. 33, and explained the police seizure in a short note called “About Evergreen Review No. 32.” But No. 33 was also seized; this time the offending item was a poem by Judith Malina (codirector, with Julian Beck, of the Living Theatre), “last performance at the living theatre invective.” The poem concluded, “I suggest an overthrow of all governments by love. / I suggest direct action: / Ergo: Fuck the USA.” No. 34 contained yet another Cadoo photograph as well as the sort of works that were becoming Evergreen’s signature: Susan Sontag’s now famous “Against In­terpretation,” Samuel Beckett’s Play, and Hubert Selby’s “The Queen Is Dead,” the last anticipating Grove’s publication of Selby’s controversial Last Exit to Brooklyn. By 1967, then, Lawrence, Miller, Burroughs, and Selby had been published and defended, and the police actions against Evergreen Nos. 32 and 33 overturned; thus Evergreen had much to celebrate as it ended its first decade. Grove Press marked the milestone by publishing the encyclopedia-sized, 800-page Evergreen Review Reader: A Ten-year Anthology of America’s Leading Literary Magazine in 1968. Two years later the magazine would again be
under siege; a year after that it would disappear—along with the era it had championed. --http://www.groveatlantic.com/grove/wc.dll?GroveProc~Display~HISTORYGUTS [Feb 2005]

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